People have known about the benefits of eating fish for ages. Scientists have also known for decades about the positive health effects of fish oils. Studies conducted in the 1970s revealed that the Inuit, as well as people who maintained a Mediterranean diet, had significantly lower incidence of cardiovascular disease compared to most Europeans. Studies have also shown that the Japanese have one of the highest life expectations.
One thing that the diets of these regions have in common (with the exception of Europe) is their considerably high omega-3 fatty acids content – abundant in most fish. Numerous scientific studies have shown that a diet rich in Omega-3s impact reduces the risk of heart attacks, and also helps to counter depression, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, there is strong evidence showing that omega-3s reduces Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammations.
So, What are Omegas?
The Omegas are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are regarded as “essential” to the human body because you need them, but the body cannot manufacture them. So, you can only get them from your diet.
The omegas include omega-3s, -6s, and -9s. Studies show that the modern Western diet is largely unbalanced because it mostly comprises the omega-6 fatty acids found in grains, but not enough omega-3s. The omega-9s are found in fats like olive oil, and are considered to be neutral. This means that they are neither good nor bad, but are better compared to unhealthy saturated fats.
Sources of Omega-3
The term omega-3 refers to a range of fatty acids, three of which are very important for your health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), elcosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – only found in oily fish – and alpha-linolenic-acid (ALA) – obtained from plants (nuts and vegetable oils).
Animal-based sources of omega-3 fats include:
- Salmon – the American Heart Association recommends 2 servings of wild salmon per week.
- Fish oil – a great source of omega-3 fats, though it is weak in antioxidants
- Krill oil – a fantastic source of omega-3s and antioxidants.
Vegetable-based sources of omega-3 fats include:
- Walnuts – major source of ALA
- Organic flaxseed oil – rich in omega-3s, protein, and fiber
- Kidney beans and legumes
- Seaweed – plant sources for DHA and EPA
- Berries – great source for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3s
How Much Omega-3 Do You Need?
Omega-3s constitute part of the membrane around every cell in your body, and help to control what substances pass in/out the cells, as well as how the cells communicate with each other. Nutritionists and scientists recommend that you consume at least two 75-gram servings of fish every week, which translates to about 500mg of EPA and DHA per day. That said, studies suggest that you cannot possibly get too much omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for fetal neurodevelopment and may be important for the timing of gestation and birth weight as well. This is why Dr. Torbati recommends all pregnant women incorporate omega-3 into their diets.